Shell is the operator and 60 per cent owner of the Athabasca Oil Sand Project (AOSP), a joint venture between Shell, Chevron Canada Corporation (20 per cent) and Marathon Oil Sands LP (20 per cent). The AOSP consists of the Muskeg River and Jackpine mines, the Scotford Upgrader and the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project (Quest).
Shell Canada contributed Quest to COSIA’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Environmental Priority Area (EPA) in September of 2013. This means that any member of the GHG EPA has access to this technology and the intellectual property used to develop it for use in their own oil sands operations.
Shell’s Quest CCS project will be part of the solution COSIA and its member companies are looking for to help develop valuable oil sands resources with less climate-changing emissions. The governments of Alberta and Canada have identified CCS as one of the most promising technologies that can be implemented today to significantly reduce global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by capturing CO2 from large industrial sources and storing it deep underground.
According to the International Energy Agency, CCS is the only technology available to mitigate GHG emissions from large-scale fossil fuel usage, particularly power generation. It could account for about one-fifth of the total mitigation effort needed by 2050 if projects are started now.
Using Shell’s-patented amine capture technology, Quest will capture approximately one million tonnes of CO2 per year from the Scotford Upgrader, located northeast of Edmonton, Alberta, and store it more than two kilometres underground.
As the first commercial-scale CCS project for an oil sands operation in the world, it will also help to provide knowledge that will accelerate the deployment of this important technology globally. In February 2014, Shell conducted a site tour of the Quest construction site, allowing the other GHG EPA members to see the technology and gain practical knowledge of the project.
The data collected from Quest once it is in operation will also create the basis for future projects developed through the GHG EPA.
COSIA’s GHG EPA member companies are very interested in advancing CCS technology, says Wayne Hillier, Director, GHG EPA.
Having access to a full scale operation will be of significant importance. We hope to help drive advancements in technology and reduce the cost of CCS.
Quest will contain CO2 underground by using existing technologies as well as natural geological trapping methods that have kept oil and gas and natural accumulations of CO2 underground for millions of years.
Injecting the CO2 involves first compressing it to turn the gas into a liquid-like state so that it can flow through the pipeline and be injected underground into a porous rock formation, called the Basal Cambrian Sands. Multiple layers of rock and salt above the expansive storage formation provide effective barriers to keep the CO2 contained deep underground.
The underground formation where the CO2 will be stored is more than two kilometres below the surface. This is up to two kilometres beyond the deepest drinkable groundwater and about one kilometre below the deepest hydrocarbon deposits in the area.
To assure the shallow groundwater is protected during injection, each of the injection wells will have three barriers of borehole steel casing, each cemented in place.
Once injected, the liquid CO2 will displace the salty water or brine already present in the formation and become stuck in tiny spaces within the porous rock. With time, an increasing percentage of the CO2 will dissolve within the brine and sink to the bottom of the storage formation where it will become even more firmly trapped.
To confirm that the CO2 remains safely and permanently contained, Shell has developed a rigorous, world-class Measurement, Monitoring & Verification program that will involve multiple monitoring technologies. Quest underwent a comprehensive third-party expert audit of its storage development plan and is the first project in the world to have received certification of fitness for safe CO2 storage by Det Norske Veritas (DNV) of Norway.
The technologies involved in capturing, pipelining and storing CO2 deep underground have been around for decades. While carbon capture has been clearly demonstrated on a small scale, what is new is the work now to utilize this technology in a large, integrated fashion on commercial-sized CCS demonstration projects. Shell is the first oil sands operator to incorporate CCS on a commercial scale.
CO2 capture technology has been used successfully for several decades in the petroleum, chemical and power industries. Using Shell’s-patented amine technology, Quest will capture up to 35 per cent of the direct CO2 emissions from the Scotford Upgrader.
Thousands of kilometres of CO2 pipelines are in safe and reliable operation in North America today, mostly in the United States. Shell is familiar with both the construction and operation of CO2 pipelines, which have been in use since the early 1970s in the enhanced oil recovery industry extensively in Texas and New Mexico. Shell will follow all industry best practices when designing, building and operating the pipeline to meet the highest safety standards.
Alberta has some of the most promising geology for CO2 storage in Canada. The geology of western Canada and the proposed location of the Quest project are ideal for CO2 storage. Several types of rock formations are suitable for CO2 storage including saline formations. The saline formations contain water that is unusable because of high salt/mineral content. To obtain the highest levels of CO2 storage containment and capacity, the most suitable formations are usually selected at depths of 800 metres or more, where pressures and temperatures of the rock keep the injected CO2 fluid in a dense phase.
For Quest, the proposed injection formation is more than two kilometres deep and located below multiple layers of thick, impermeable, cap rock which will prevent CO2 from escaping. The CO2 will be trapped within the tiny pore spaces between the grains of the rock formation and by dissolving into the brine of the saline formation.
Fossil fuels are expected to make up the majority of the world’s energy supply in the coming decades. However, society recognizes the need to reduce the CO2 associated with fossil fuel production to mitigate the effects of climate change.
CCS is one of the most promising technologies for near term and significant CO2 mitigation. Quest is expected to reduce CO2emissions from Shell’s Scotford Upgrader by one million tonnes per year when it becomes operational in 2015. That is the equivalent of removing 175,000 North American cars from the road each year.
Quest is being advanced by Shell on behalf of the AOSP.
The governments of Alberta and Canada have demonstrated global leadership in advancing CCS technology through the funding they are providing to enable CCS projects to proceed. The government funding, a total of $865 million, is tied to extensive knowledge sharing commitments with both levels of government for the benefit of future CO2 projects. Shell has also shared their Quest CCS technology with COSIA’s GHG EPA.
Shell’s Quest project has earned attention and interest from around the world, as other countries and organizations including COSIA’s member companies seek to learn more about how Canada has been able to progress CCS.
Click here for more information on Shell’s Quest CCS Project.
For more information about the AOSP, click here.